From Your Plate To Your Ears :
Are There Foods That Cause Ear Wax?

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    Medically Reviewed By:

    Dr Leslie Koh
    M.B;B.S. (Singapore), MRCS (ENT) Edinburgh, M. Med (ORL), FAMS

    We may have heard friends, relatives and colleagues tell us that there are specific foods that cause ear wax. Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a natural substance produced by glands in the ear canal. It plays a crucial role in protecting the delicate structures of the ear and keeping the ear canal lubricated. However, an excessive buildup can lead to discomfort, hearing issues, and potential infections. Understanding the possible link between certain foods and ear wax can help you make better dietary choices, leading to better ear health. In this article, we delve into this interesting topic, discussing and exploring the impact of specific food groups, and providing valuable insights. 

    Understanding Ear Wax Production

    Before delving into the possible link between diet and earwax production, it’s important to understand how ear wax is formed. The ear canal contains specialized glands that produce cerumen, also known as ear wax. This wax is a mixture of secretions from these glands, as well as dead skin cells, hair, and dust particles. This gradually moves towards the outer part of the ear as the skin is sloughed off, carrying away debris and maintaining a self-cleaning mechanism.

    Diet And Foods That Cause Ear Wax

    foods_that_cause_ear_waxDiet alone is not the sole factor responsible for ear wax production. However, anecdotal evidence has suggested that certain foods may affect its consistency and quantity. It is important to note that every individual is different; and that individual responses to these foods may vary. There is NO research that has established definitive links between diet and earwax. Nonetheless, it is worth considering the potential impact of the following food groups:

    1. Dairy Products

    Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, have been suggested to result in increased ear wax production. The exact mechanisms behind this association are not fully understood. Some theories suggest that the high calcium content in dairy products may contribute to wax overproduction in certain individuals. If you notice excessive wax buildup after consuming dairy, it may be worth reducing your dairy intake to see if there is a difference.

    2. Fatty and Oily Foods

    Foods that are high in unhealthy fats, such as fried foods, processed snacks, and fatty meats, have also been purported to increase wax production. Such proponents believe that these foods may contribute to inflammation in the body, including the ear canal, potentially affecting the ceruminous (wax-producing glands). A balanced diet which includes healthy fats, such as those found in avocados fish and nuts, may potentially make a difference in this regard.

    3. Highly Processed Foods / Foods High in Sugar

    Consuming excessive amounts of sugary and processed foods is unhealthy and may lead to various health issues, including inflammation. Inflammation in the body can potentially affect the ear canal and its wax-producing mechanisms. It is advisable to limit one’s intake of sugary treats, processed snacks, and refined carbohydrates, opting for whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and wholegrains instead, regardless of its impact on wax production.

    4. Salty Foods

    While salt is a necessary component of our diet, excessive consumption of salty foods can contribute to water retention and swelling. This fluid imbalance may impact the ear canal and its ability to regulate wax production. Choosing low-sodium alternatives where possible can help maintain a healthy balance.

    Maintaining Optimal Ear Hygiene

    While it may be possible that certain foods may cause ear wax production to be increased for certain individuals, prioritizing overall ear hygiene is also essential. Here are some tips to maintain optimal ear health: 


    1. Gentle Cleaning

    Avoid inserting objects such as cotton buds, Q-tips or other instruments into your ear canal, as these may push the wax deeper and cause damage. Instead, gently clean the outer part of your ears with a soft cloth or towel after a shower. 


    2. Ear Drops

    Over-the-counter ear drops designed to soften ear wax, such as olive oil, mineral oil and hydrogen peroxide can be used to facilitate its removal. Follow the instructions carefully and do contact your general practitioner  if you have any concerns 


    3. Regular Check-ups

    Schedule regular check-ups with an ear, nose, and throat specialist to monitor your ear health and address any concerns promptly


    While certain foods can potentially influence earwax production, it is crucial to approach this topic with caution. There is NO EVIDENCE to show that specific foods or a specific diet results in increased earwax production. Individual responses may vary, and maintaining your overall ear hygiene is essential for optimal ear health. By following the recommendations provided and seeking professional advice when needed, healthy ear function can be maintained, and complications associated with excessive ear wax can be minimized. Remember, a balanced diet and good ear hygiene go hand in hand to support your overall well-being.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    While certain foods have been thought to be associated with increased ear wax production, there is NO good scientific evidence to support the claim that specific foods can directly reduce ear wax production. However, by adopting a healthy and balanced diet, we can promote overall ear health and potentially contribute to maintaining normal wax production. Including foods which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish (salmon, sardines), walnuts, and flaxseeds, may support optimal ear function and ear wax production. Additionally, consuming fruits, vegetables and wholegrains can help maintain overall well-being, indirectly supporting ear health. 

    There is NO specific nutrient or vitamin deficiency directly linked to excessive earwax production. Certain health conditions and lifestyle factors may contribute to increased ear wax production. These may include improper ear hygiene, cerumen impaction, skin conditions affecting the ear canal, and excessive use of cotton swabs or other objects to clean the ears. It's important to note that if you have concerns about excessive ear wax or any related symptoms, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and appropriate management.

    Earwax production is a natural process that is triggered by various factors. Earwax protects the ear canal from dust, debris, and foreign particles, while also lubricating the skin of the ear canal. 


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